Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Human Factor - Eve Blog Banter 25

Hello. I'm back.

Welcome to the twenty-fifth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's topic comes to us from @Tetraetc - "Tetra's EVE Blog" - who asks: "Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? Imagine a Null Sec where anyone could build outposts wherever. Would the reduction of the alliance game mechanic, and the removal of the sovereignty game mechanics (or the modifcation of it from Alliance level to Corp level for that matter) force more PVP into Null sec, or would giant power blocs like the NC still form themselves?"

There's this ongoing assumption working its way through the Eve community that large nullsec power blocs somehow reduce the amount of PvP going on in nullsec. This is another one of those ideas that a person in CCP has thrown out as a given with little in the way of supporting data. And everybody running an alliance that's presently on the losing end of the nullsec sov wars, and every pirate who's all big and bad in lowsec but is afraid to go play snatch and grab in nullsec (where even the carebears could bubble and cap-drop him and his jolly jack tars) start waving this supposed factoid about as if to say, "See, I'm not a loser! Nullsec's broken!"


This year has seen some of the most exciting, kick-ass, bitch-slapping sov warfare in the history of Eve. Intergalactic empires have crumbled. Legendary names have fallen. Alliances and coalitions never seen before in nullsec have arrived and shaken the thrones of the mighty. A coalition, largely derided by their enemies as a bunch of carebears, has everyone trembling in their anti-gravity boots. There have been last minute plot twists, spying and plotting worthy of a Le Carre novel and double-dealings that would have done Machiavelli proud.

And this is only post-Dominion year one.

Instead of the dull old days when the big boys sat fat, happy and neigh impregnable in their space, the nullsec map is wildly fluid with change. For the first time, alliance space has to be actively defended, and the space you take has a cost component. Perfect? Of course not. But we have a much more interesting nullsec than we've seen for some time.

There's plenty of PvP going on in nullsec. How much depends on how you define PvP.

And that brings us to "the blob". As near as I can figure, the a blob is any formation of ships that significantly outnumbers your formation of ships - especially if their formation just handed your formation their collective ass. I'm sure Custer was a big opponent of blobs about midway through the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Somehow the well-established doctrine of overwhelming force, standard issue thinking in modern warfare, is lost on many Eve players who want the rise and fall in intergalactic empires to be played out via small gang warfare rather than the clashing of vast space armadas.

New Eden has plenty of space that supports sharp, quick fleet combat using small to medium sized gangs. It is the principle type of combat employed in lowsec and is frequently exercised in nullsec as well. However, there must be a place for epic large-scale space conflict as well. 

Now, a lot of people are hand-wringing because small alliances can't go out and stake their claim in nullsec. This is plainly not true. There are a number of small alliances that maintain small holdings in nullsec.

"But Mord," I hear you say. "Those are all vassals of larger alliances, or guests, or (worst of all) renters. They're alliances who hold space by dint of their relationship with a protecting alliance or coalition. I want to be able to take my hundred-player alliance into nullsec and hold my space by sheer force of arms."

I hate to burst your bubble, but human aren't wired that way. Our history is, for the most part, the big guy rolling over the little guy. The little guy's defense against this has often been to seek out a patron who can intimidate the barbarians who are at the gates. With a little luck, the patron doesn't turn out to be more of a threat than the barbarians. Historic feudal systems the world over are deeply rooted in this basic human dynamic. Sooner or later, the little dog seeks shelter in the shadow of the big dog. And, as long as Eve is a sandbox, there's no way you're getting around it. 

To a certain extent, the coalition concept is an extention of this and illustrates that Eve is shaped as much by its players as CCP's software designers. There's no coalition mechanic in Eve. There's not even a commonly agreed-upon definition for it. For example I define coalition as 
...a collection of alliances that choose to closely coordinate their foreign and defense (and possibly trade and industrial) policies on an ongoing basis for the common good. In essence, they operate as a loosely coupled macro-alliance.
Other people would call alliances having a non-aggression pact (NAP) a coalition, however I believe that's too loose a definition. Mutual defense pacts come closer to (and, in fact, are often the first stage of) a proper coalition as I define them, but still don't rise to the level of coordination I use in defining a coalition. 

Now, coalitions aren't something CCP designed. They are a product of the sandbox and have evolved within the player communities. They are a player invention that's grown up over time in order to overcome limitations in the Alliance mechanic and to establish social and administrative constructs not supported by CCP's software. Working in coordination with a well-run coalition, alliances can overcome weaknesses and vulnerabilities CCP has allowed to persist in the Alliance mechanics.

Since CCP doesn't control coalition mechanics, they're unable to nerf them. All they can do is to attempt to impose a cost on cooperation and, in the December CSM minutes, that was the direction they seemed inclined to take. But the monkey-wrench in those gears are the players themselves. In order to create barriers high enough to deter players from developing new "out of Eve" means of cooperating on a large scale, CCP would have to completely remake almost every aspect of nullsec; a strategy fraught with unexpected outcomes and financial risk.  

Eve has become a complex game, comprised of many interacting mechanics. Changing one mechanic introduces a cascade of possibilities elsewhere in the game. Because of the Eve player's penchant for innovation, changes to the game can have much broader repercussions than envisioned by designers and developers. Over a year later, impacts of the Dominion sovereignty changes on nullsec are still making themselves known. Layering additional large-scale changes on top of those may be ill-advised.  

Small changes in nullsec may be called for. However, despite the current panic about nullsec devolving to one big blue carebear hug-fest, that's a very small-probability event. The flip-side of the human tendency for cooperation, is the human tendency for war. Each drives the other and feeds on the other, rising and falling in a tidal manner - ebb and flow. I quite guarantee that, six months from now, the political landscape of nullsec will be very different from what we see today.

In Eve nullsec, as in real life, the only constant is change.

Other participants in  Eve Blog Banter 25:

  1. BB25 What sov changes will come? | A Mule In EvE
  2. Confessions of a Closet Carebear: Alliances and Sovereignty
  3. Blog Banter 25: Nerfing Nulsec « OMG! You're a Chick?!
  4. Have Alliances and the sovereignty system limited the amount of PVP and RP potential in Null sec? | Nitpickin's
  5. Blog Banter #25: Alliance and Sovereignty Limiting PvP in 0.0? | Sarnel Binora's Blog
  6. Blog Banter #25 - Mad Haberdashers
  7. Alliances and sovereignty | Eve Online Focus
  8. ...Shall we not Revenge?: BB 25: What if the Alliance vanished?
  9. Blog Banter: Alliances and Sov
  10. EVEOGANDA: BB25: Sov 'n Go!
  11. » TBG:EBB#25 – Alliances and Sovereignty To Boldly Go
  12. Freebooted: BB25: Leviathans of the Deep
  13. Wrong Game Tetra ~ Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
  14. EVE Blog Banter #25 – Human nature what art thou? | Way of the Gun
  15. Who cares about Sov? - Hands Off, My Loots! ~ well sorta like an entry! :p
  16. The 25th EVE Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty - The Phoenix Diaries
  17. Achernar: The space commute
  18. Wandering the Void…my EvE musings. – Blog Banter: Alliances and sovereignty
  19. (OOC) CK’s Blog Banter #25: How To Break EvE. « Prano's Journey
  20. Captain Serenity: Blog Banter #25 - Crappy mechanics
  21. Helicity Boson » Blog Banter #25 Nullsec and sov.
  22. BB #25 – “With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?”
  23. Boom! Hull-Shot?: It's the End of the Eve as We Know It
  24. sered's lives: EVE Blog Banter #25 - Size does matter
  25. 25th EVE BB – Medieval Solutions to Spaceship Problems | Inventions of a New Eden Industrialist
  26. More to come...


  1. I've always felt the problem with blobs is actually a problem with focus firing which results in a lack of strategy in the battle (aside from picking the order to blow people up). The problem is that ships taking damage don't lose effectiveness. Were CCP to add module/systems damage which resulted in guns/launchers/modules firing slower/breaking completely this would favor more strategic players since they could lower the blob's damage output. In real world naval combat if you focus on one target alone, that one goes down while the rest of the enemy navy destroys your forces. Imaginary internet spaceships or not, this is how everyone expects, including CCP (they made more than just the types of ships you see in a blob), warfare in EVE to work.

  2. Perpetuum is an EVE ripoff that uses robots (think Mechwarrior) instead of ships. The game has encountered the blob problem (too many EVE vets in the Perpetuum beta), and the developers simply added area of affect artillery.

    Bam, problem solved!

  3. As I understand it eve's engine doesn't like AOE. Currently it gets strained with smartbombs, sits down and has a good cry.

  4. Mord your always touting Dominion but nothing's changed. The NC continues to be the NC the Drone Lands are still from Russia with Love. Entry into 0.0 is attained through renting or petting. All the battles we saw in 2010 have occurred before Dominion. The IT cascade was just Delve 2.0.

    When it comes to PVP and actually holding 0.0 nothing has changed, carriers are about as expendable as your average ship and Titans are starting to appear in sufficient numbers to be considered their own fleets. I wouldn't blame that on Dominion though.

  5. Hmmm.... Atlas crashed post-Dominion. Wicked Creek and Insmother have changed sov at least once. Geminate was taken from the DRF post Dominion and after a momentary period of stability is in flux again due to the collapse of Rebellion.

    The new mechanics aren't going to flush large alliances out of their power bases overnight. Sorry, but saying that because this hasn't happened nothing has changed is ignoring what's happening on the ground.

  6. Loire - I don't tout Dominion so much as consider it a vast improvement over the previous Sov system.

    Nothing's changed?

    Recall Delve 1.0 was only possible due to an internal disbanding of BOB which shut down its sov advantages. This was an outright invasion/collapse. Before BOB was in exile for a while. Now BOB/IT has scattered to the winds - dust to dust.

    Many of the old reliable alliances have gone the way of all flesh and many new alliances have appeared. The Initiative came out of nowhere, pulled in assists from PL and White Noise and knocked AAA out of their space. AAA made an utterly unexpected comeback after most of New Eden had written them off. Epic.

    The sheer volume of territory that's changed hands is unprecedented. The DRF owns half of nullsec. Test Alliance holds most of Querious. Atlas is trying to reconstitute itself in old IT Alliance space. CVA is no longer in Providence, and only in nullsec at all due to the largess of AAA. The list goes on.

    PL is in Delve, ratting in supercapitals - a sure sign of the apocalypse.

    You can't simply say that NC and the DRF are still in place, ergo nothing's changed. The change is there in the sov map activity. The only large territory changes in the year before dominion was because of the BOB disband. Go look at the animated sov maps from 1/2010 to now. It's outright dizzying.

    Viz entry into 0.0, the entry barriers to nullsec will always be there. Holding sov via combat is skill and asset intensive. Frankly, it should be. .

    You can certainly take your hundred-pilot alliance into the nullsec wilderness, grab an unclaimed system and set up shop. However, unless you make friends very quickly, somebody unpleasant will soon stumble across your brave band of souls and take issue with your presence in what they regard as their sphere of influence. Barbarians crossing the Rhine ran into this issue with Rome as did American settlers who settled in territory claimed by the Sioux.

    Unless you can fight them off or convince them to let you stay, you are a mere supercap drop or two from a bad playing experience.

    I've written elsewhere that the big change in Dominion is not that the big dog and the little dog are now on even terms. It's that the need to actively defend space plus the financial cost of holding sov mean that a higher population density is required in order to successfully hold space over time.

    Want to take some nullsec? Look for an overextended alliance (someone with too few pilots defending too much territory) in a sov fight with another power. While they're thus occupied (and especially if they're losing), go grab some of their space.

    And remember to make friends. Even the big dogs need friends form time to time.

  7. One can comment that the coalition structure also allows for protection from metagaming attacks. Witness Rebellion Alliance/Band of Gypsies. From what we can tell that was a spy or a turned member who disbanded that alliance prior to an attack by the DRF. Had the NC formed a single much larger alliance then it would have been a single target rather than a whole bunch of targets. While Rebellion reformed as band of Gypsies we (the rest of the NC) were able to help them out. This makes the coalition of smaller alliances much less vulnerable than any single large alliance.

  8. I disagree with the "blob" statement. Most competent and aware folks today define blob as "multiple super carriers" and 800+ in local battles. You are on the winning side (obvious NC/DC) so have a slightly skewed view. The facts are that once crappy areas (like Cloud Ring) are getting stations and upgrades, and that the NC is continuing to grow (and this has been going on since before Dominion).

    Although the banter topic is totally out in some crazy paranoid CVA position, nullsec has become supercap central, and the dominion structure-shooting fest is only marginally better than the old tower game. That is a problem. When the only way to take sov is to have a fleet of ships that require sov to build, you have a chicken and egg problem. And for the rest of EVE without a Technetium wallet, a standard fleet isn't 8-10 supers + 20-30 caps + 300+ subcaps, but I'm guessing you don't realize that from inside the walls of the NC stronghold.

  9. I don't have an opinion on most of S.W.'s second paragraph, because that's a little out of my depth. But in my personal experience Mord's definition of the blob is by far that which I encounter across the spectrum of players, from high sec through low and to null.

    So, I would say I do not find "most" folk to define it as multiple supers, though perhaps "some". And I'm a Russian renter, so it has nothing to do with being behind Fortress NC.

  10. Clarification: I'm a renter of Russian space, not myself a Russian.

  11. "...However, there must be a place for epic large-scale space conflict as well..."

    Sure, problem is it sucks. Large scale battle are by and large won by the FC, the composition and the numbers. (with a heavy emphasis on the numbers IMO.) Irrespective of where you think the balance lies it leaves you, the individual pilot, having very little meaning in the battle. you skills and abilities have little to no impact on the outcome and this is wrong, as you scale down to smaller fleets (or gangs) the individual becomes more important and I think this is why some people dislike blobs.

    EVE may be about emergence, but that emergence is on a very large scale over a long timeline (days/weeks) Eve combat is IMO far too deterministic, especially when it comes to fleet warfare.

    BTW I'd define blob as any ratio of numbers greater than 2.5:1, cause I think 3 peeps on a gatecamp who kill a single ship coming through to have blobbed it. I am not sure if I consider blobbing "bad" I do know it is very unfun on the receiving end, and I have grown tired of it on the giving end as a line pilot (non-FC).

  12. In the Eve context the meaning of 'blob' is so variable as to be useless for the purpose of meaningful discussion. As with Humpty Dumpty, 'blob' often means whatever the user intends it to mean, no more and no less.

  13. Loire - Didn't notice this the first time:

    "All the battles we saw in 2010 have occurred before Dominion."

    Dominion was released in December 2009 and its sov mechanics were in place throughout 2010

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